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Generic Names Get Lost In A Search-Driven World

In a world where companies, products, and even people live and die by online search, the quest for unique names is taking precedence over being average or mundane.
In a world where companies, products, and even people live and die by online search, the quest for unique names is taking precedence over being average or mundane.According to a story in today's Wall Street Journal, being a Jane Doe or John Smith is no longer desirable. If you want people to find you or your company, you need a name that sticks out:


For people prone to vanity searching -- punching their own names into search engines -- absence from the first pages of search results can bring disappointment. On top of that, some of the "un-Googleables" say being crowded out of search results actually carries a professional and financial price.

That's because people increasingly rely on search engines to find things they want to read, music they want to hear, people and companies they want to do business with. U.S. Internet users conduct hundreds of millions of search queries daily. About 7% of all searches are for a person's name, estimates search engine Ask.com. More than 80% of executive recruiters said they routinely use search engines to learn more about candidates, according to a recent survey by executive networking firm ExecuNet. Nearly 40% of individuals have used search engines to look up friends or acquaintances with whom they'd lost touch, according to a Harris Interactive survey commissioned by Microsoft Corp.'s MSN unit.

That's right, even your name needs to be search optimized.

So, what do you do if you (or your business) have a boring, average name? For one, you can try to associate yourself with interesting facts or tidbits. And if that doesn't work, you can try to find that "perfect" name:


"Any time you can distinguish yourself with a distinctive name or a distinctive characteristic that sticks out in people's minds, that's going to be the best solution," says Matt Cutts, a Google software engineer.

That's advice parents like Ms. Wilson have already taken to heart. Her husband rejected her original choice for their son, "Kohler," on the grounds that it would subject him to playground ridicule. The couple eventually chose "Benjamin." "I gave up trying to find a one-of-a-kind name and decided that as long as he did not share the name with a serial killer, I would settle," Ms. Wilson explains. (See results for Benjamin Wilson and Kohler Wilson.)

Attempting to counteract her own anonymity on the Web, Ms. Wilson now goes by "Abigail L. Garvey Wilson" when she publishes scientific papers. And recently she has been running names through search engines in anticipation of the arrival of her second child, a daughter due at the end of this month.

What do you think? Do you Google new people you meet? Do you categorize your friends and professional contacts based on their search results? And do you try to make sure that your names -- and possibly the names of your children -- are search optimized?